‘Monsters’ or ‘How To Make a Feature-Film On Your Laptop’

Director, Writer, Cinematographer - Gareth Edwards, 2010

Nowadays lo-fi and independent are cool. Whether it’s in music, publishing, television or cinema, the smaller your budget and the less support you’ve received from corporate industry practice the better. In every one of today’s arts-based industries, thanks to the internet, formats are being forced to adapt to ever-changing circumstances and the more skills you have on your CV the better. BBC visual effects man Gareth Edwards is a sure-fire sign that if you’re not only capable with your day-job, but a dab hand at a few others, you can achieve great things. With a gear list that basically consists of only two professional actors, Adobe software, a camera and two laptops (courtesy of Intel). Including post-production and a few other bells and whistles checking in at under £500,000, when you consider Avatar had a £300 million budget, we’re talking shrapnel. Like everything lo-fi these days it’s all about cutting out the middle man, a routine the public are becoming more apt at recognising.

These have been strong times for British cinema, following the recent BFI acquisition of the UK Film Council. Like any heavy change that initially may seem ominous, people are forced to react and adapt, and it brings out their natural instinct to survive. British artists are getting gutsy; since this is Gareth Edwards’ first outing as a feature-film director, and he does a fine job too.

For the audience this is essentially a film about disbelief with cries of “on a laptop?!” and “but it’s so slick!” But with Edwards juggling three pivotal roles in ‘Monsters’, of these three “writer” seems to be his most primitive. A few scenes feel a bit flimsy and this is mostly down to the heavily improvised script. However this also naturalises the ambience and most importantly character relationships. The two leads are married in real life, and their chemistry on-screen is intact. They seamlessly bounce off each other encouraging the best from all the extras, the majority of who just happened to be there at the time of filming. Excuse me, can we film you? Can you be in a movie? Can we go in your house? Sure, why not.

With a premise borrowed from District 9, we follow Andrew (Scoot McNairy) and Samantha (Whitney Able) on their journey through infected Mexico back into America, infected with alien monsters that is. For the most part we aren’t even exposed to entire monsters, just teaser snippets that yield a thoughtful tension throughout. The film is beautifully shot, the scenery as they roam the infected country conjures The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and taking all this into consideration, ‘Monsters’ is undoubtedly an indie success story sending out all sorts of mixed messages to bedrooms and boardrooms. Primarily that less is more.

Gareth Edwards’ Monsters Equipment List

  • £15,000
  • Sony PMW-EX3 with a Letus 35mm lens adapter
  • A White Van
  • Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium Software. Includes Adobe After-Effects
  • 2 Professional Actors
  • Some VFX Know-How
  • A Laptop

Jon Hopkins – ‘Monsters’ Theme

One of the best film themes I’ve heard in a long time. Can’t stop playing this.

-James Godwin, December 9th, 2010

Copyright © 2010. James Godwin. All rights reserved.